A lot can happen in 30 years.
Just ask Dawson County’s Ben Overstreet, one of five founding members of Etowah Water and Sewer Authority.
Overstreet was appointed as a board member after the 1980 Georgia General Assembly created the authority as a political subdivision of the State and a public corporation.
Today, Overstreet is the last living original board member from the authority’s beginning. Prior to that, he recalls going door to door, trying to sign-up customers for the service.
“We had to have 750 customers, so we could borrow the money to get started,” said Overstreet on March 18, exactly 30 years after creation of the authority.
“Each of the five board members, we divided up our sections of the county and went around asking people to sign up for water service,” he said.
Infrastructure for the authority had not yet been built, and in order to begin construction of the facilities, officials first needed a minimum number of customers. Overstreet said signing up for service at the time costed $50.
“We had a hard time getting people to do it at first,” Overstreet said. “We went house to house, and we had to fight off a number of dogs on people’s lawns.
“We finally got enough customers to borrow the money,” he said.
In April 1985, a groundbreaking was held for a water treatment plant and distribution system to serve the eastern portion of Dawson County. Board members, Overstreet, Frank Roberts, Don Gordon, William Jessee and George David were there to mark the occasion.
Construction was completed on the plant, and service began in August 1986.
“After we got the water, the next step was sewage,” Overstreet said.
Plans for the outlet mall on Ga. 400 helped usher in the authority’s addition of sewage operations.
“The people from North Georgia Premium Outlets, they came and talked to us,” he said. “They wanted to put the mall down here, but said they wouldn’t do it if we couldn’t furnish them with sewage.”
Nine months later, June 1995, Etowah Water and Sewer Authority officials held a groundbreaking ceremony for a wastewater treatment plant to serve the Ga. 400 commercial corridor.
Rosalind Chambers, the authority’s financial manager and a longtime employee, recalls that “after the outlet mall came and we got sewer to them, that whole area just started popping.”
“[Along Ga. 400], one business would want to come, and then another one, and they just kept building and building,” he said.
Added Overstreet: “Our county wouldn’t be what it is today if it wasn’t for water and sewage, because there’s no way businesses would have come here without it.”
Overstreet remembers when the authority started out with 750 customers.
Now, it’s grown to 5,100. He thinks there’s room for even more growth “as soon as the economy picks up.”
Following in the footsteps of Etowah Water and Sewer Authority leaders like Overstreet, current General Manager Brooke Anderson said the business “continues to build on a strong foundation.
“Without that foundation, we wouldn’t be able to move forward the way that we are,” Anderson said.